Identifying and Defending Against Ransomware Hacking

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of illegal software that is used to block a businesses digital systems, preventing it from conducting business-as-usual. Hackers, or digital mafia, use these ransomware software to hold individuals and businesses to ransom. An independent global survey of IT and cyber security professionals found that over 80% of businesses were attacked by ransomware in 2021, and that over 60% of these businesses paid the ransom demanded. Double-extortion ransomware is another form of hacking and business ransoming that removes data from a businesses files. These files are then encrypted, and hackers ‘sell’ the files back to the business through a ransom. Businesses who refuse the ransom face the threat of the data being released. Reputation is increasingly at stake for businesses holding valuable and private data. According to Heimdal Security, only 65% of businesses actually recover their data after paying the ransom. Ransomware attacks are not only prevalent and evolving, but they are also on the increase.

 

Who Are the Hackers?

Analysis by the BBC showed that 74% of ransomware attacks profits in 2021 was linked to Russia-based hackers. In fact, in 2021 more than $400 million worth of crypto-currency were paid in ransom payments into Russia alone. But external ransomware threats are sadly not the only kind of threat facing businesses when it comes to security ransoms. Internal security attacks are becoming increasingly frequent, where those within an organisation hold a business to ransom through their infrastructure.

 

Collective Response

Now more than ever, there is a growing desire to protect against and combat ransomware attacks, by businesses and individuals. Infrastructure security is evolving, but not all businesses can evolve and invest in this more defensive manoeuvre to the same level. This leaves some businesses more exposed than others. When hacking is an easy and profitable source of income, it only serves to encourage more and greater targets. What is clear, is that for the collective good, knowledge sharing between businesses is key. Ransomware attacks and defence require a collective approach, for the communal good.

 

 

Identifying and Defending Against Cyber Threat

The Government provides basic advice on how to prevent cyber attacks by reducing overall exposure. This includes educating users on what to look for in a potential security hack and adopting malware and password protections. Their advice is that to prevent an attack in the earlier stages through the adoption of security softwares is a much better investment that having to face a full-blown ransomware hack. In the UK, the average ransom cost of such an attack is between £600,000 and £1,150,0000 for businesses.

The Financial Times suggests “that small, and seemingly innocuous holes or glitches in corporate IT networks and management policies can become the gateways to much bigger disasters”, Nicole Perlroth. For example, the failure to close an email account for a terminated employee was enough for a key US energy company to be afflicted by a cyber hack. Good ‘housekeeping’ and clear business policies and processes can help to prevent these holes that can allow malware and ransomware into a business. Three easy steps for businesses to take is to ensure two-factor authentication is used, passwords must regularly be changed, and employees are regularly educated on the latest email phishing scams to avoid clicking the links of. Cyberark reports that since COVID-19, malicious emails to businesses have increased by over 600%. The likelihood of an employee opening a door to such an attack inadvertently has never been higher, and these attacks are growing ever more sophisticated.

 

It Often Starts as You'd Expect

Phishing emails are one of the first signs of a ransomware attack. These suspicious emails often have attachments, and are something for businesses and employees to look out for. Network scanners and active directory networks are also potential channels for infiltration. Microsoft Process Explorer is often a way for hackers to steal login credentials, so can also be another sign for identifying and channel for defending against ransomware hacks. The removal of a security software can be another early sign of an impending attack - and to raise the alert. Hackers can also ‘test hack’ businesses before they launch a full scale attack. So businesses and employees should be educated to identify small breaches to the system in the anticipation of a potential full ransomware attack.

And sometimes, taking your eye off the ball due to an apparent 'it isn't broken, so don't fix it' mentality when using external systems such as a website platform like Adobe Commerce (previously Magento) is very risky. Too many took too long to move from an older grandfathered version and left themselves open to a large scale attack.

Cyberark also suggests reframing business emergency preparedness to ensure that cyber threats are treated as inevitable, rather than just a possibility. This can help to ensure that businesses invest in preventative measures and take cyber threats more seriously. High value targets for double extortion ransom attacks, such as the NHS, typically spend a very small percentage of their budget on such preventative measures. But with the costs of such high profile attacks costing as much as £40,000,000 in one ransom, the preventative security measures are increasingly vital.

 

Summary

Ransomware hacking is already rife, and becoming increasingly so. The means by which hackers are infiltrating businesses are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect. But there are some small warning signs to look out for, and actions for businesses and employees to take that can prevent a glitch from becoming a full scale breach. The global economy is hugely impacted by such attacks, and as a business community it is important to educate and knowledge-share to forewarn and forearm against malicious cyber threats.


Post Pandemic Shopping Behaviours Are Changing

eCommerce Market

In the USA alone, pandemic shopping saw the eCommerce market grow by over $219 billion. According to new data released by Adobe, channels within eCommerce that were adopted by shoppers during the pandemic (such as clothing, grocery, homeware etc) have maintained their levels post-pandemic.

This indicates that our buying behaviours have been changed for the longer term. Ease of shopping experience has remained vital, and the need for this has stuck. During the first wave of the global pandemic, these shopping behaviours saw a shift from completion on mobile to more completion on desktops.

But as the pandemic has passed, though the preference for eCommerce remains, the shift back to mobile is being noticed.

Klarna recently released a report that surveyed over 18,000 consumers in over 13 different countries. We look through it and see just how much things are changing.

 

Mobile Shopping Resurgence

Not only is the switch back to mobile resurging, but it has also overtaken its pre-pandemic usage rates. Some 9 in 10 UK consumers admit to using their phones to compare prices (90%) and look for the best deals or price promotions (94%), while 8 in 10 (78%) use them to search for shopping inspiration.

Image Credit: Klarna Insights

Shopping apps are becoming increasingly common, more than half of consumers (60%) have between one and five shopping apps installed on their device, although it is debatable whether this represents the best experience for users over the longer term.

The number of mobile apps people use regularly is on the decline, with the preference for marketplaces being favoured over single-branded commerce applications. 63% of UK consumers would prefer to have a single app that incorporates all aspects of their shopping journey, with 8 in 10 (79%) saying this would simplify their shopping experience.

These trends are also being seen across all generational age brackets - not just the Gen Z and Millennials.

 

Mobile Payments

Virtual cards are also on the rise, along with mobile banking and secure checkouts. Faster, more efficient checkout processes are an expectation of the modern mobile consumer. Anonymous shopping, secure shopping and insured transactions further strengthen the virtual payment offering.

Image Credit: Klarna Insights

 

Summary

Behaviours can change quickly. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and all the governmental restrictions that follow, and behaviours can change at scale very quickly. For brands with the expectation that these behaviours would naturally bounce back, consideration must be made for how certain habits have stuck and become preferred as the new norm.

Mobile shopping habits plummeted and resurged during the pandemic, but beyond the resurgence certain key elements of mobile shopping have changed. Types of experiences, purchases, pathways, and activities have fundamentally changed.

Image Credit: Klarna Insights

Arming yourself with the knowledge and the know-how to use these changes to your advantage is key to brands maintaining and improving upon their eCommerce successes post-pandemic.


Eclipse Achieves SAP® Gold Partner Status

It brings us great pleasure to announce that Eclipse has been achieved SAP® Gold partner status in the SAP® PartnerEdge® program. This is an awesome achievement and clear indication of the high level of quality that we at Eclipse provide to our clients within the world of SAP solutions. 

SAP® PartnerEdge® Gold Partners are performing at a high level across their entire business and illustrate a strong commitment to delivering business value to their clients. SAP® allocate points for competency and strategic alignment and partners are evaluated on a yearly basis and cannot achieve gold status on business performance or size of customer base alone. 

 

 

“Moving to Gold status is proof of the successful partnership we have with SAP®, a company that we work with creating future-proof solutions for our clients. It means a lot to us not just because it shows clients how strong our SAP® practice is, but there are also many benefits to being a Gold Partner, and those will benefit our present and future clients.” 

Perm Ghattaura | Sales and Marketing Director | Eclipse 

 

As an SAP® partner, Eclipse has access to tools, training, resources, and benefits to deliver the solutions and services that clients demand. The SAP® PartnerEdge program provides the enablement tools, benefits, and support to facilitate building high-quality, customer experience focused solutions that any business of today needs – quickly and cost-effectively.

  

"It is a testament to your hard work, dedication and a real go and drive you guys have that has got you to this status. [We have] Thoroughly enjoyed working with you [and look forward to] the continued success for 2022 and beyond!"

Paul Walter | Partner Business Manager | SAP® UK & Ireland 

 

If you’d like to find out how Eclipse and SAP® can help your business succeed in 2022, reach out to us via our contact form and we’ll get right back to you. There’s not much that can’t be solved with a few cups of tea, some bright people and a (currently virtual) whiteboard. 


What are NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens?

What are NFTs?

A non-fungible token is a unit of data, or an internet file, stored on a blockchain. For those still scratching their heads, blockchain, simply put, is a platform where you can create and distribute such content in a way that minimises the chances of hacking, cheating the system, or duplication of your precious intellectual property. On these blockchain ‘digital ledgers’, such files can be sold and traded. Common types of NFTs are photos, videos, and audio.

If you are wondering why this is such a big deal - because you already share photos, videos, and audio files on the internet - you are not alone. Why is labelling them as NFTs any different? Essentially, instead of internet and ad companies owning, profiting from, and controlling the content you share on their platforms, owning the NFT file means you own the rights to it. You can protect the work you create.

As Kayvon Tehranian puts it, “NFTs are a certificate of ownership of your internet files, registered on the blockchain, for everyone to see. It is not dissimilar to your legal ownership of a physical home”.

 

 

What Are NFTs Worth?

The most expensive single NFT is a digital collage of images known as The First 5000 days. Created by Michael Winkelmann, a digital artist known as ‘Beeple’, this collage sold for $69.3 million.

The First 5000 Days is an important artwork in the NFT community as it paved the way for mainstream audiences to explore on-fungible assets.

There has however been a more expensive NFT sold but it is a little different. The Merge is a digital artwork created by an anonymous digital artist nicknamed Pak. It was sold on Dec. 6, 2021, for $91.8 million on the NFT decentralized marketplace Nifty Gateway.

However, the piece was fractionalized to 312,686 pieces distributed to 28,983 buyers. The catch here is that The Merge was a single artwork composed of a collection of “masses” that users could buy.

These pieces could be stockpiled to make a bigger mass and sell it on the secondary market. By the end of the sale, a total of $91.8 million was spent, making it the most expensive NFT sold to date.

‘Alien Cryptopunks’ also dominate the most expensive NFT listings. These are unique pixel art collections, made using algorithms.

With over 2.4 million NFTs created and in circulation, and over $4.8 billion in trade, the average NFT value ranges between $1,500 and $6,500.

 

How Are NFTs Disrupting Commerce?

Unlike ownership of files in the physical world, NFTs do not attempt to remain private. They are made for sharing. One’s ownership does not prevent others from interacting and enjoying it. The greater the publicity, the greater the value. Buying and selling NFTs can be compared again to real estate in the physical world - values grow as NFTs gain in popularity and demand.

Furthermore, they are changing how we exchange currency across geographic boundaries. An instant payment system, international wire transfers, foreign exchange and customs charges are all circumvented.

 

Summary

NFTs are reshaping ownership, experience, and trade of intellectual property on the internet. They open new possibilities whereby rights are placed in the hands of creators, and not the hands of a few mega-corporations. They are disrupting commerce and the status quo that since the conception of the internet, services the needs of the all-powerful ad platforms. NFTs have the potential to be a true value-leveller for the internet users and creators of the future.


Live Commerce: Innovation or Evolution?

You may have heard the buzz around this new channel that is making waves in commerce but for those of us old enough to remember the height of the home shopping networks being broadcast on our TV, it might sound very familiar. Is Live Commerce a remarkable innovation or an evolution of a somewhat tried and tested method?

 

What exactly is Live Commerce?

To put it into its simplest terms, Live Commerce is the blending of live entertainment with instant purchasing broadcast via a digital channel. I know what you’re thinking, this sounds very familiar.

To give the concept a bit of a back story, Alibaba launched Taobao (which translates to ‘searching for treasures’ in Chinese) in 2016. This self-described ‘super app’ is a one-stop-shop for more than 800 million Chinese consumers and is China’s biggest online shopping destination. It boasts listings of over 2 billion products and services from originally designed clothing to branded products and even fresh agricultural produce.

The platform is used for everything, and that is not an overstatement. People are buying products, ordering food, and even booking flights all in this single app and all this data is giving them the power to create hyper-personalised journeys.

Where it moved away from the standard marketplace or eCommerce experience was with the introduction of live streaming. They embedded the purchasing journey right into the live stream so whilst people are watching the product demonstration or show, they can explore and shop without leaving the entertainment behind.

 

Innovation or Evolution?

Those familiar with the home shopping networks of old will see the similarities very quickly. Ok, the tech used is somewhat old hat now, but the concept is the same. People like Joan Rivers built brand empires selling things like jewellery in almost the same way using the latest tech available at the time.  We tuned in to watch the show, asked questions, placed orders over the phone, and felt connected to the hosts and guests.

Where Live Commerce is the evolution is that it is putting it in a place that people use now. The days of spending hours in front of the TV are over. The innovation is the removal of the need to use multiple devices and the almost endless number of streams that people can tune into concurrently.

The old way tied us to a schedule that often-meant spending hours waiting for the show to come around and the hope that we didn’t miss it. eCommerce gave us the ability to buy what we want when we wanted it. Live Commerce is merging the two things and creating an experience that is innovative in its delivery but very much an evolution of an experience we know worked.

 

Does it work?

To put it into a succinct statement, yes it works. In the first 30 minutes of the 2020 Alibaba’s Singles’ Day presale campaign, Taobao Live generated $7.5 billion in total transaction value. And Tommy Hilfiger has extended their live program to Europe and North America after one of their shows in China is reported to have attracted 14 million viewers and sold 1,300 hoodies in two minutes.

But as with all things, it’s not just as easy as whacking up a Livestream and waiting for the money to roll in. Most of the success for those examples is due to the platforms being used and the marketing effort attached to promoting them.

The key to success is putting it into a place where people are already engaging, are open to a shopping experience and the experience that is offered is convenient and easy to accomplish.

 

Should you be doing it?

Based on the information at hand today it is hard to say if it will work for every type of product. The largest success has been in apparel and fashion, beauty, and consumer electronics. Interestingly if you think back to the types of products often sold through the home shopping networks like QVC, the match is almost like for like.

Other things to consider alongside does your product fit are things like, are your customers or those of your buyer personas using the platforms where Live Commerce is the most successful. Starting the process and getting Live Commerce up and running is not a cheap exercise so making sure that it is something your customers are likely to engage with is important.

Are you willing to invest the time and money not only into the technology required to make it a success but, in the marketing, required to drive awareness, engagement and ultimately the purchases? These are things that need to be kept in the mix when considering if it is a channel to use.

If your answer to those questions is yes, you might just have found a new way to deliver not only an increase in sales but also the opportunity to create incredible digital customer experiences.

Keep an eye out for the next Live Commerce blog where we’ll explore a little more about how to go about setting it up, the best format to choose and the steps to take it from small beginnings to a major sales channel.


Visual Commerce: What it is and why it’s important

It’s hard to deny that we live in a visual world where the way a thing looks can and almost always will have a huge impact on how it is perceived. This goes for the front of a store or a house, often referred to as curb appeal, to what we see on social media platforms like Instagram. For an influencer image is everything.

Where the commerce bit comes into play has been hyper-relevant during the pandemic and as habits shift are becoming more and more important for any business that operates at kind of presence online.

It is essential where buyers may not or cannot have a chance to visit a brick-and-mortar store or handle products in person. They become entirely reliant on visuals and the days of just pictures are over.

 

Visual Commerce in a nutshell

It essentially involves using visual content, front and centre, for marketing, branding and sales purposes. It is core to the strategy for helping customers learn about products and create connections with the brand.

It includes way more than just product images. For it to sing, it needs to include high-resolution photography, videos, and augmented reality.

By adopting visual commerce you’re aiming to dramatically enhance the customer experience by offering more than just ‘regular’ visuals they’re either expecting or coming across when dealing with other retailers.

 

Here’s why customers love it

There are a bunch of reasons why customers gravitate toward visual commerce and here are just a few.

 

Drives Engagement & Purchases:

As mentioned before people are drawn toward things that look good or are interactive. Having compelling visuals attracts customers and encourages them to engage.

It only takes 13 milliseconds for the human brain to process an image, which is 60,000 times faster than text and it only takes 50 milliseconds for someone to form an opinion about what they’ve seen, like your website. If you’re trying to get information across images is a great way to do it.

And when we look at how it is shared, images produce 650% higher engagement than text-only, and they achieve an interaction rate of 87% compared to 4% or less for things that are text or links only.

When it comes to AR, 71% of shoppers said they would shop more often if they could use AR, 61% said they would choose to shop with stores that have AR over those without it and 72% of shoppers that used AR in their shopping journey said they purchased stuff they didn’t plan to buy, simply because of using AR.

 

Discovery and Education

Visual content is key to discovery and education for customers. Video tutorials can help solve problems, answer questions and drive desire whilst AR allows people to get closer to products that ordinarily can’t be picked up or seen in person.

And we’ve all been subject to that moment when we’re scrolling through Instagram and something makes us stop or even scroll back down to take a second look. That is the power of visuals and their ability to create a discovery moment.

70% of B2B buyers watch videos during the purchase process and 4 x as many consumers watch videos about a product rather than read about it. Generally, people are 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a product video and when it comes to AR, 77% of users said they use it to see product differences such as possible variations of colour and style and 65% use it to find out more information about a product.

 

So, what could it look like for you?

There are plenty of ways that it can be implemented using great images, video, and AR and of course, combining multiples into a single experience. This tends to be the case for the companies that are doing it well. Here are just a few examples that show it in action.

 

Configurators

These are becoming more and more popular with companies that offer products that can be ordered in customised configurations. A lot of car manufactures have adopted more advanced versions of these, but they can apply to just about any product where customisation or choice is part of the ordering process.

Tesla has a great example of a configurator at work. They have for the most part encouraged potential new owners to order their new cars online and as such have created a fantastic clean experience.

But they’re amongst great company. Manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche and Alfa Romeo all offer some kind of builder on their websites and the best combine it with a 360-product model, matched to the configuration so that people can experience the car from all angles.

 

 

Another company doing it well is Steelcase. Their range of home and office furniture is fantastic, and they offer the ability to match the accessories and finishing to match needs and interiors.

 

 

Again, combining the option of either 2D or 3D gives people the chance to interact further with the product during the ordering process.

 

Augmented Reality or AR

AR is a technology for many that is still somewhat unknown or misunderstood. The result of the pandemic and the popularity of games such as Pokemon Go has really driven interest from consumers and awareness from manufacturers and sellers.

There are plenty of companies already making great use of this technology by taking the 360-product models that others are using and allowing users to bring it into their homes or create try-on solutions.

One of those is Etsy. They rolled out the ability via their app to allow shoppers to try pictures for sale, in their homes, via AR.

 

 

Having this as an option means no more measuring tapes and trying to figure out if the picture will fit in the space you have. You can literally see it on the wall before you buy it. This is a great example of what AR can do to drive interaction and remove doubt from buyers’ minds.

Virtual try-on is another place where AR is really making strides. Be it a watch, shoes or sunglasses giving people the chance to get up close to products without the need to have to deal with shipping and returns is great not only for the customer as it is a lot more convenient, but businesses can save on the logistics and the environment benefits from not having to have extra parcels on the road that are essentially just going to do a great big loop.

One of those offering this service is Monc. They offer several of their sunglasses models as virtual try-ons from their website when using a mobile device. It allows a person to see what the glasses will look like on their face with an incredibly high level of accuracy, adapting to lighting and movement but they also offer the ability to see the glasses in 360 so that you can get up close with the detail of the product.

 

 

Video

When it comes to creating an incredible experience with exceptional video it is hard to beat Apple. It is so well incorporated into the total visual commerce experience that you can be forgiven for not even realising that you’re consuming video whilst navigating their website.

Every element where value can be enhanced using video, it has been implemented. They use it to tell stories and demonstrate features and functions teaching the users how to use their products as part of the product discovery process.

 

 

Another example of great use of video as part of the buying experience is being done by PrettyLittleThings. They use video in the form of catwalk videos. These show the clothes on real people moving and turning around in the items you’re looking at giving them a real sense of what they’ll be like to wear.

 

 

Most people are aware of the tricks of the trade when it comes to photography and by using video you remove any doubt that photoshop has been used to make the clothes look like they fit better than or that they have been size adjusted on the model with pins and clips to make them look better.

During our research, we came across entire threads on the internet where people were sharing links to sites that have this catwalk video option because they refused to shop with people online who did not have that option open to them.

 

360 Images

We have talked about this as part of configurators and within AR but they have a use in their own right. Giving people the option to view products, especially big ones, from all angles helps with decision making.

Heals have implemented this for their furniture and most notably with their sofas. When you load the product page, it is the first image you’re greeted with and it encourages you to drag the product around and take a look at it from all angles.

 

 

So, what are you waiting for?

We hope that we’ve been able to demonstrate the value that visual commerce has when it comes to creating incredible experiences and that more and more businesses will see that the longer, they take to adopt some of these tools and methods, the further behind their more forward-thinking competitors they’ll fall.

These things are not nice to have, they are expectations of the consumer and avoiding them is done at your own peril. It’s not too late to push forward and create memorable experiences people want to share.

And the good news is that if you’re serious about it and need help making it a reality, Eclipse can do just that. Come talk to us and let’s create more personalised experiences for your customers that genuinely make a difference.


Is This the Future of Returns for eCommerce?

Shopping is one of the great British past-times and we love it, but sometimes we buy things that just don’t fit the bill and we’re put into what can feel like an arduous task, returning them.

As much as the eCommerce experience has increased hugely and it has become easier to get the stuff we want, the thing that to me feels like it has been forgotten about is the other end of the process. We ultimately don’t set out to buy stuff to have to return it, but it can be unavoidable.

If you’ll allow me a moment to get onto my soapbox, I’ll share a recent experience of mine.

 

The Returns and Exchange Process Right Now

Having recently returned to the UK it now just happens to be the case that my mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day fall in the same month, literally days apart. As I always do, I headed online to buy up some gifts to make sure she would see how much I appreciate her.

The Mother’s Day gift was an easy pick, I knew what I was getting would be perfect and would do the job nicely. When it came to her birthday gift, I wanted to push the boat out and bought something that was size reliant.

It arrived and the big day came and although I had picked her size, the item came up a little small. ‘No worries, I’ll get them changed for you’ I tell her. She decides that she would prefer a different style and maybe we should go up a size ‘just in case’.

Thankfully the sale came with a returns label in the box, and I was to tick a box and drop the paperwork back in with the product and get it sent back. Of course, before we had completed this we had been online looking for the new items we wanted to exchange the product for.

I kept thinking to myself ‘Why can’t I pick the item I want so that when they get it back and declare it fit for return, they can just send me the new ones?’ This wasn’t an option, so I followed the process, sent it back and waited for the refund, before buying the replacement.

Whilst we waited, I thought to myself ‘Maybe there might be a better deal out there or something else she might like instead?’ which of course left me browsing the internet on several different retailer’s websites looking at other things. I ultimately decided not to buy something else and to go back and get the original chosen replacement, but I wondered how many other people in the same position just would not bother, resulting in a lost sale for the retailer.

For those of you who are wondering, the replacements did arrive but being a different style meant the size up was a bad idea so we had to go through an exchange process again but with the stores opening up again decided to go in-store in the hope that we could simply change the size.

The lockdown meant that most of the stock you’d expect in the store was not there due to older stock having been left to float around but we were able to change them and get new ones sent to the house without having to do the refund/repurchase dance.

 

There Has Got to be a Better Way

This wasn’t the first time I had dealt with this type of thing and it always plays on my mind when I buy something from a new store or a new brand. The risk of having to wade into the process of returning things can sometimes overwhelm the excitement of buying them in the first place.

I couldn’t get the idea of being able to pick the item I wanted in exchange before sending it back out of my mind. Surely this wasn’t radical thinking? Someone must have thought of this before and surely, I wasn’t the only one wanting it as an option when shopping.

The answer to those questions came to me during a google news search. I spotted an article on Adweek ‘Affirm to Buy Returnly for $300 Million as Ecommerce Returns Spike During the Pandemic’ and it caught my attention.

I hadn’t heard of Returnly before but another quick google search got me to their home page and I’ve got to say what I found, brought absolute pleasure to my heart.

 

The Better Way

Self-described as ‘a return experience like no other’, they give customers the ability to pick the right item before sending back the wrong one. This is exactly what I had talked about when I was going through the returns process. Putting control of the experience in the hands of the customer is what good customer experience is all about.

I should point out that we’re not affiliated with Returnly but after having discovered them, I felt it was worth letting retailers know that they should be taking a serious look at what they’re offering.

Allowing customers to exchange for size, style or a completely different product directly from the return’s portal is brilliant customer experience. Returnly pays for the order on behalf of your customers, so they can get the right item before returning the wrong one.

And if the customer is not in the market for an exchange you can give customers a smooth return experience that automates the return and refund process altogether, so your team can focus on more valuable work.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Returnly can offer both you and your customers and as a customer myself, if I was to purchase from a retailer that offered this level of refund and exchange it would almost certainly become a driving factor in whether I chose to make a purchase from other retailers I came across in the future.

Retailers work so hard to get people onto their stores and to get them shopping with them, so why would you put any level of risk around them not coming back because of an old or broken return and exchange process.

Working to retain relationships with existing customers should be as important, if not more so, and it appears that sometimes businesses can forget that. Paying attention to the entire lifecycle and making sure the customer experience is seamless and well-designed can only be a good thing for everyone.

Go take a look at what Returnly has to offer and see if it could work as part of your offering to your customers. I’m sure both you and them would benefit from an enhanced post-purchase journey.

And if you'd like help enhancing your customer experience across your entire site, we can help with that. Our Experience team are experts at enhancing and creating design, UI, UX experiences and developing and implementing conversion rate optimisation strategies across eCommerce. Come talk to us about your site and let's make a plan together.


Laptop in coders view

You're Not Thinking About Accessibility Enough

Broadly speaking, making a site accessible means accommodating the range of ways that users can interact with your product, regardless of experience, capability or disability. Often people think of accessibility in terms of extremes; how would a blind person interact with a site? 

While it makes sense to prioritise things that are going to take more effort to integrate and test, the truth is, your potential user base is almost infinite its combination of characteristics and capabilities, and a truly accessible site should be able to accommodate them all.

It can sound like an unachievable goal, and for product owners trying to apply accessibility standards to an already existing site, knowing where and how to start can be difficult. However, the key and most important things are to start. 

Legally required levels of accessibility are no longer things reserved for government organisations. Legal requirements mean predetermined standards and probably the most widely adopted standard are those laid out in WCAG. These are a set of standards created in cooperation with individuals and organisations around the world, to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organisations, and governments internationally.

It’s all too easy to decide “this site will be AA accessible”, by which it meets the mid-range level of conformity, and work backwards and forward from there. Making a site accessible can simply become working through a checklist; do images have alt tags, are the contrast ratios high enough on the buttons? While this in itself can be a valuable process to go through, but it isn’t the whole story. At the end of the day, it’s crucial to remember the whole reason for undertaking accessibility improvements; your users. 

User experience is the ultimate test of success on your site. Better user experience often means a better conversion rate. Your user base can vary widely, and while you can follow best practices and accommodate the 95th percentile, at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for user testing. 

It can be achieved many different ways, at Eclipse we often use A/B tests to decide the best approach to design. However you do your testing, you can be sure of two things; one, that it will give you a better insight into how people interact with the site, and two, there will be results that you were not expecting.

In a recent example, we were looking at the design of a CTA button. By adhering to the brand’s guidelines, the button was bright orange and the label text in the button was white. 

Following AA standards, the contrast ratio wasn’t high enough to be considered accessible. On paper, the label text should be dark. But that’s not the whole story. A sample group of test users actually found the dark label less easy to read than the white version.

 

 

 

It’s not uncommon; there are numerous examples of similar tests producing the same result. The contrast ratio guide is supposed to ensure that the label is legible for people with visual impairments like colour blindness. But even when all the users questioned where colour blind, they favoured the white label over the “accessible” dark label. 

There could be numerous explanations for this, but it’s important to consider the human factor in everything we design. The way we see things is inherently imperfect and everything needs to be considered in context. 

In the case of the button label, the preference for the white label could be explained by the irradiation effect. In essence, when there is a border between something light and something dark, our retinas actually shift the divide towards the dark, so that the white seems to bleed over slightly.

In the case of the button label, the white text feels bigger or thicker to our eyes. Again, context is important; our eyes perceive colours differently depending on the colour around them. For this button, it was also being used on a light page. All the white space around the button increases the irradiation effect on the white button label.    

Obviously, standards and guidelines serve a purpose. Even in the button label tests, nearly 40% of the users favoured the recommended accessible colours. The fact of the matter is, users who struggle are often a minority.

 

 

Guidelines help factor the needs of a minority into our design choices. Design can be subjective and we need to agree on some ground rules. Particularly when it comes to factors or impairments that might not impact us directly. It’s almost impossible to preempt all your users' needs, but it’s important to try. 

However, it’s also important to know when to be flexible enough to break those rules, to accommodate your users. The only way to know that definitively is to be having regular interaction with your users. Guidelines help you start that conversation, but ultimately it’s user testing that will let you know if you got it right.


Conversational Commerce : The Next Big Thing?

Ecommerce is awesome. It is incredibly convenient and during the global pandemic we've been through and in most cases are still living in, it has been our lifeline to the outside world and allowed us to still get access to the products we needed in a safe and secure way. But shopping is about more than just what you buy: it's a treasure hunt to discover something new, a negotiation to get a great deal, a time to catch up with friends and family. This is the one thing that businesses are still trying to solve for ecommerce. It's the customer and 'in-store' experience we want to emulate.

Many see online shopping as an experience that can be impersonal and somewhat unsatisfactory as an event. Is there a way to bring back the magic?

In this Ted talk we found, Nimisha Jain introduces us to "conversational commerce," a new retail model that combines the convenience of a digital experience with the personalised touch of a real, human interaction. With exciting examples from companies in India, Thailand and China, there are lesson to be learnt that could change the face of ecommerce as we know it and introduce a new era to us all.

 


Man sitting at laptop

What Does 2021 Have Instore For Retail

In an article released by IGD last week they highlighted key trends they thought would ‘shape global retail in 2021’ and having had a look through them, we tend to agree.

‘Driving online profitability, creating safe shopping spaces, and bringing the out-of-home experience in-home’ were among them and in this post, we’re going to take a closer look at some of them identified as ‘stand out’ for businesses to focus on this year.

 

System upgrade: digitally enhancing operations

The pandemic created an acceleration of the shift toward a digitally focused economy and 2021 is set to continue this shift. As Head of Innovation and Futures at IGD, Toby Pickard put it “The pandemic has accelerated retailers and shoppers’ digital awareness and capabilities. Numerous companies have been testing and learning from new digital initiatives, and in 2021 companies will need to move beyond this to improve and implement at scale. Digital transformation will require new leadership and a fresh cultural mindset as companies create flexible and agile ways of working.”

Embracing this change and adapting to it is what is required of businesses in 2021. IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Introduction of digital technologies that have a low capital investment and are easy to update
  • Partnerships with third-party technology providers to speed up new tech introduction
  • More use of machine learning and artificial intelligence at store level to drive revenue and increase customer satisfaction

 

Escalating ecommerce: driving online and profitability

Every single person has been in the crosshairs of this during 2020 and now even into 2021. Lockdown followed by lockdown has left retailers and shoppers alike with very little option but to venture into the world of shopping online. Multiple reports have indicated that the shift towards shopping online has been brought forward by at least five years.

When looking at this trend specifically Toby Pickard said: “With many shoppers using the channel for their large weekly shop, we have seen retailers focus on enhancing the pickup, or click and collect, experience to help improve profitability. This has included adding more collection slots, expanding order staging areas and parking bays and ensuring a contactless experience. While the initial surge is receding, online penetration is expected to remain at a higher level, compared to pre-crisis.”

We see this happening across all of retail, not just the food industry. Having the capability to allow for click and collect my just be the thing that helps bricks and mortar stores survive. People will inevitably continue to lean on online first as a way to discover new products but having an option to either have it delivered or collected in a store may give you what you need to stand out amongst your competitors.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Retailers seeking to reduce their overall operating costs to accommodate online, improving processes and automation
  • Encouraging shoppers towards click and collect
  • Retailers assessing the options for rapid delivery, for example the same day or in a few hours

 

Holistic health: supporting health and wellness

The pandemic has brought home the seriousness of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it is easy to see why this is going to be a trend that grows in 2021.

Eco-concise retail was a big trend in 2020 and the desire to reduce your impact on the environment was a lifestyle that started to gain traction. 2021 sees this go one step further and consumers are looking inward at what they need to do for themselves, as well as keeping their carbon footprint at the forefront of their decisions.

As Toby Pickard puts it “Health and wellness naturally became more important to everyone in 2020. We saw a wide range of activities from retailers as they aimed to encourage healthier lifestyles. We will see more retailers educating, informing and rewarding shoppers for living healthier lives. Companies will look to champion both their health and sustainability credentials, as the two key trends merge, of their existing and new products. Personal health will increase in importance, but ultimately affordability may take precedence during economic downturns.”

Bringing these credentials to the front of what you do and creating content that talks to the consumers wants and needs will help you build relationships not only with existing customers but will open you up to a new audience.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Greater focus from shoppers on hygiene and sanitation products for individuals and the home
  • Retailers and brands trying to differentiate themselves by helping shoppers and consumers live healthier lives
  • More tailored solutions in-store, either through assistants or using digital tools like apps

 

Recuperative retail: focusing on sustainability

Climate change has been on the radar for years and years and it continues to be at the top of a lot of peoples lists. When commenting on sustainability, Toby Pickard said: “Climate change will remain a top priority in 2021, as it is recognised as the most likely source of major future disruption. While there will be much focus on how sustainability supports the climate change and resilience agendas, we will also see initiatives to build trust and loyalty with shoppers.”

Showing customers how you’re doing your bit as a business to fight climate change will inevitably help you build trust and for customers that have this as a high priority as part of their purchase decision, you’re appealing directly to their core values.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • With climate change remaining a top priority, we expect retailers globally to push ahead with initiatives to support goals in this area
  • Continued implementation globally of initiatives to reduce plastic and food waste
  • Initiatives to build trust, loyalty and better relationships with shoppers, staff and communities

 

Knowing how and where you can use these trends as part of your strategy in 2021 will help define what your success may look like during the year.

At Eclipse we have teams of experts that work on Customer Experience and Strategy and we can help you shape these trends for your business. All it takes is for you to reach out to us and we can start looking at how we can help you ensure success in 2021.

If you want to take a closer look at the release from IGD, you can head over here to check it out.